How to stop your noodles sticking

January 30, 2020 4:12 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

The word originally used in the title for this blog was ‘clumping’ – and I’m sure you know what I mean. If you’ve ever cooked noodles, you’ve probably had at least one occasion when they’ve all ‘clumped’ together into a sticky, gluey-y mass. It’s not very appetizing (and doesn’t taste good either).

How do you stop your noodles sticking together?

Why does it happen – and what can you do to prevent it?

Oodles of noodles

We sell a vast range of noodles at Naturally Good Food. We specialize in the slightly more unusual varieties: organic, wholewheat and gluten-free. This means that you’ll find noodles as varied as Pumpkin Ginger Brown Rice noodles and Sweet Potato Buckwheat Noodles in our range. Some cook pretty much in seconds; others take as long as five or six minutes. They’re convenience food that is actually pretty good for you – and can of course be combined with all manner of extra ingredients, spices, seasonings and so on.

Standard noodles are made of wheat, and that accounts for much of our range. Our gluten-free and speciality noodles are made from other cereals (and pseudocereals) instead, but the one thing they all have in common is that they’re a form of starchy carbohydrate – and it’s the starch that’s the issue when it comes to clumping.

Some noodles are more starchy than others – buckwheat is a particular culprit. If you’re not great at cooking noodles, maybe save the starchier ones for your more advanced days!

Stiff and starched

Starch is a type of carbohydrate found in foods like pasta and noodles, grains, potatoes and root vegetables. In nutritional terms, it brings us energy – but it also has a range of non-food uses, including making things stick together and stiffen. That’s useful for shirt collars and linen sheets, but neither of these are qualities you’re looking for in your bowl of noodles.

Noodles release their starch as they’re cooked, into the water (that’s why it looks cloudy at the end). The trick is to prevent too much starch being released, and to stop the starch reattaching itself to the strands themselves. Here are some tips.

Use plenty of water

Be generous with the water – give the noodles room to move about and separate. Increasing the water also decreases the starch:water ratio.

Bring your water to the boil

Starch can’t dissolve in cold water – but unfortunately, you can’t cook noodles in cold water! As soon as your noodles come into contact with warm-ish water, their starch will begin to dissolve. However, boiling water quickly ‘sets’ the outside of the noodles, limiting this. So don’t be tempted to stick your noodles into a pan of cold water and bring everything up to the boil together – wait for the water to boil first, before adding them.

Untangle them

Your noodles will enter the water in dry clumps. Once they begin to boil, use a fork or similar implement to untangle the strands. Keep stirring and disentangling at regular intervals.

Don’t overcook

Flabby noodles will stick together pretty much whatever you do to them, so do follow the cooking instructions. To test a noodle to see if it’s done, remove a strand from the pan with a long implement, run it briefly under cold water and bite it. Noodles cook so quickly that if you have to wait for your tester strand to cool down before you try it, the rest of the batch will probably be ready!

Bear in mind that noodle cooking times are the time given for the noodles to cook in boiling water: you’ll need to start timing from the point at which your water comes back to the boil – it will briefly go off the boil when you first put the noodles in.

Rinse your cooked noodles

We’ve saved the best advice for last! When the noodles are cooked, rinse them to remove the starch (some suggest rubbing them gently as you do so). Cold water is agreed to do the best job of rinsing, but it does run the risk of leaving your dinner a little chilly. If you’re planning to reheat the noodles, however, or are instantly adding them to a pan of stir-fry, then this won’t bother you. If you don’t want any cooling to happen at all, then use boiling water instead. (It goes without saying that this boiling water can’t be the water you’ve just boiled the noodles in – because that will itself be full of starch….boil a kettle instead!)

The very best advice is to rinse briefly in cold water whilst gently rubbing, then plunge into ice-cold water until you need to reheat.

Use oil when cooking

The noodle-cooking community is violently divided on the issue of whether or not to add oil to the cooking water, and there are a lot of angry opinions out there on the subject. The science behind it all is pretty interesting –  it’s to do with surface tension – but the long and short of it seems to be that adding oil might do some good if you get the chemical reaction just right, but probably won’t.

Use oil or a sauce after cooking


If you’re not serving your noodles instantly – and even if you are – coating them in oil or sauce after cooking will help keep the strands separate. If you’re using oil, choose an oil that really brings something to the dish, such as toasted sesame oil, which for many people, is the essence of Asian cooking, with its rich, savoury smell.

See all our noodles here – and – best of luck!

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This post was written by Yzanne

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